Wednesday, 19 June, 2024

COVID Cases Fall Vaccine Key To Save Lives


Narayan Upadhyay

After months of staying in the shadow of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, here is some good news: virus infection and fatality rates have come down substantially, delighting our fellow citizens who are gearing up to observe this year's Dashain festival. The Kathmandu Valley, a hotbed of coronavirus, and other parts of country have witnessed a sharp fall in virus infections and mortality rates, which has brought a smile to the faces of our health mandarins and government authorities for their endeavours to bring down the infection and death rate have paid off. 

As of now, the number of infected people has tumbled to below 1,000 and the death toll stood at a single-digit during the past few days. In the capital valley, the number of infected individuals has gone down below 300 as of the first week of October. The dominant reason behind such a dip is the government's unwavering efforts to inoculate citizens and ramp up the testing and treatment of the affected ones. The coronavirus shots, which have now crossed over 17 million in the nation, have given an edge to the vaccinated people in their fight against the killer virus that has so far claimed the lives of over 11,000, besides infecting over 750,000.
Many government and private hospitals across the nation have been equipped well with testing and treatment facilities that have further helped bring down pandemic cases. The import of vaccines from various countries has gone up steadily in recent times. So far, the nation has witnessed over 17.8 million doses of COVID shots given to the people. About 29 per cent of the total population has received the jabs. Similarly, about 72 per cent of the Kathmandu Valley population has already received the virus shots.

Vaccines in priority
With the government making utmost endeavours to import vaccines from various destinations across the globe, people have expected the lethality of the contagion to be blunted. Soon after assuming his office, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had told the Parliament that the focus of his government would import as many vaccines as possible to give solace to the Nepalis hit by the killer virus. The second wave of the pandemic in Nepal, with the Delta variant still wreaking havoc, has proved lethal to masses, claiming over 4,000 lives. 

Our country has recently witnessed thousands of vaccine doses from China, the USA, Japan, European nations and India. Our two neighbours have pledged to provide a sufficient amount of vaccine doses to us while the countries from the Western world would give them under the WHO-supervised COVAX programme that stresses for providing jabs to the poor countries by the advanced nations.
The continuous decline in infection and fatality rates has indeed buoyed Nepali authorities and common citizens on the eve of the Dashain festival. The decrease in infection saw our authority lifting all kinds of restrictions. If the trend continues, it will help revitalise our economy that was hit by the pandemic in March this year when the country went into total lockdown following the second wave of the coronavirus. Our economy had not recovered from the aftershocks of the first wave that gripped the country in early months of 2020.

Plenty of vaccine doses have undeniably played a key role in altering the COVID situation for the better. The recent declaration by the Health Minister that the government would import thousands of vaccine doses for children under 18 has further raised the spirit of many. According to him, the government will purchase 10 million doses for children and the first tranche of these vaccines will arrive by Dashain. Once children in different parts receive the jabs, teaching and learning activities in schools and colleges will go on in full swing. 

With the Dashain festivities just around the corner, many fellow citizens have gathered in large numbers. After authorities in the capital valley lifted the restrictions, the markets are abuzz with shoppers. The busy markets of the New Road area, the commercial hub of the capital, have witnessed a sharp rise in the Dashain crowd. People have thronged various city markets. The number of buyers and revellers will simply go up in a few days. Celebrated for15 days, the Dashain is a period when plenty of Nepalis embark on their homeward journey to celebrate the festivals with their kith and kin. 
Though the drop in coronavirus cases has delighted us, driving our people to show up in the open for initiating various activities, we should note one basic fact: the fall in the infection rate does not mean it is the end of the pandemic. The dreaded disease is still around us infecting and killing Nepalis. Therefore, we must exercise caution against the killer virus of which Delta and its sub-variants are contagious and can rear its ugly head any time if we throw caution to the wind. 

Safety protocols
In the meantime, government authorities, health and district administration must follow a cautious approach in discouraging people from congregating in sizeable crowds in the name of celebrating festivals. They have a responsibility to make people mindful of the underlying danger of the deadly contagion. For people, observing health safety protocols while coming out of houses for various social and cultural purposes and avoiding crowded places are nevertheless the best option to keep the disease at bay. 

If the people move around the places as they have been doing now, there is every opportunity that the capital valley and the entire country would experience another round of virus waves, which may overwhelm our health facilities as the first and second waves had done. Our fellow citizens, administration and health officials must remain vigilant against any major breach of health safety protocols and health facility systems until all Nepalis are fully vaccinated.

(Upadhyay is managing editor of this daily.